The Milwaukee Bucks could have taken a very different path after Scott Skiles’ departure, with Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan seriously considered for the head coaching job.
After Scott Skiles resigned as Milwaukee Bucks coach in the middle of the 2012-13 season, and Jim Boylan struggled to make any real impact in an interim capacity, the franchise set out on a coaching search to try to establish the team’s new direction.
That search ultimately led to the hiring of Larry Drew, whose contract had just expired with the Atlanta Hawks and would be replaced by Mike Budenholzer. To say things didn’t work out between the Bucks and Drew would be a colossal understatement. By no means did Drew inherit the strongest of rosters in Milwaukee, but a franchise-worst 15 wins in 2013-14 ensured his stay was short-lived.
It may be forgotten to history now, but things could have been very different, though.
All signs point to the fact that Drew wasn’t the Bucks’ first choice and, in fact, it was one of the most successful NBA coaches of all-time that was foremost on Milwaukee’s radar.
According to Sam Amick of USA Today’s reporting from the time, the Bucks met with Sloan, who at that point was a couple of years removed from his resignation with the Jazz, and eager to get back into coaching:
“According to two people with knowledge of the situation, the former Utah Jazz coach who resigned abruptly in Feb. 2011 has already met with the Milwaukee Bucks about their vacant coaching position and is being seriously considered. The people spoke to USA TODAY Sports the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the coaching search.”
Sloan, whose 1,223 wins rank him fourth all-time in NBA history, never coached again and a month later would return to the Jazz in a consultancy role.
The reasons for the failure of his talks with the Bucks to amount to anything more significant was attributed to fit by Keith Glass, Sloan’s agent at the time:
“‘The bottom line is, Jerry doesn’t really feel it’s the right fit for him right now,’ Glass said Thursday. ‘He’s interested (in coaching again). He’s in Chicago now watching the Pre-Draft. And his name keeps popping up with every job, and he hasn’t applied for anything. He had a real nice meeting with them. They came to see him on his farm (in downstate Illinois). They had a great meeting just in terms of liking each other. (Bucks general manager) John Hammond said ‘I wish I could have stayed and watched the game with him.’ It’s just not the right fit for Jerry, from Jerry’s point of view. That’s not a negative thing; that’s just the reality.'”
It’d be easy to speculate about the variety of reasons that could have fueled Sloan’s apprehension in taking the Bucks job at that time, but the fact that Herb Kohl’s desire to sell the team at that time was so well publicized likely didn’t help either.
Still, the talks with Sloan represent an interesting what if. Not necessarily because the worst season in franchise history would likely have been transformed into a success, but because rather than starting their Bucks careers out under Drew, and later Jason Kidd, there’s a chance that Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton would have been learning under one of the NBA’s all-time great coaching minds.
Unfortunately, Sloan’s health has taken a turn for the worse in recent years, and any coaching job he could have taken on after the Jazz would eventually have taken a back seat. Sloan announced in 2016 that he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body disease.
It wasn’t to be for Sloan and the Bucks, but with Don Nelson already holding down the No. 1 spot in all-time wins, the Bucks did their best to add another one of the NBA’s most successful coaches to the franchise’s story.